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5 Chicago public schools to share $18 million grant

Resource type: News

Chicago Tribune |

Middle school students in five Chicago public schools will have greater access to academic, social and health services because of an $18 million grant school officials will announce Wednesday.

The four-year grant, provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies, will fund the Integrated Services in Schools program in Ames and Perspectives middle schools and Marquette, Orozco and Reavis elementary schools. School days will be lengthened by as much as 50 percent at these schools, which will have more programs before and after school, on Saturdays and in the summer to boost student achievement.

In addition, the grant provides funding for expanded health services for students, including building on-site, full-service health clinics. The program offers social services for families as well.

The Atlantic Philanthropies is an international foundation that focuses on improving the lives of disadvantaged children and youth. The five schools were chosen because of their partnerships with the New Communities Program, an initiative of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. that is working to revitalize and preserve the diversity of 16 Chicago neighborhoods. LISC/Chicago will manage the program.

Andrew Mooney, executive director of LISC/Chicago, said each school will determine its own program based on the needs of students. Support services offered to parents will vary as well. For example, during tax season, a school might offer tax-preparation service so that parents can get help claiming the earned income tax credit.

“Each of these schools is going to be marvelous environments for students and their parents in these five neighborhoods, and we think will also have some impact on neighboring schools as well,” Mooney said. “We are hoping that when we show the impact they have on student performance that others, notably the state legislature and the federal government, will begin to take interest in this as a very promising way to improve overall performance in a school.”

Beth Swanson, Chicago Public Schools budget director and the district’s representative on the program committee, said the program weaves together services the district now offers piecemeal. Combining these services will allow them to have a stronger impact on students, she said.

“This level of funding is allowing us to put all of these pieces together in these five schools to a greater depth than ever before,” Swanson said. “We feel that by doing this holistic support of students and families, we will see even more academic gains and the closing of the achievement gap at these schools at higher rates than we have seen at the others.”

School officials are expected to announce the grant Wednesday morning at Orozco Community Academy in the Pilsen neighborhood. Principal Coralia Barraza said the program will allow the school to provide additional language services for students, many of whom speak Spanish at home.

Barraza said the program also will help the school better support parents, many of whom cannot afford interventions such as tutoring or mental health services for their kids.

“Sometimes, the students come from broken families and they don’t have the social-emotional support to deal with academics. By providing that support to not just students but the whole family, parents will learn how to help the students deal with these issues,” Barraza said. “Because this is a community that is in need of so much, this is an opportunity for the students and the families of Orozco to get the services needed to produce well-rounded students.”

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Integrated Services in Schools